The inherent limitations of current semiconductor-based electronics regarding speed, scale and mode of operation have inspired much research in molecular electronics and photonics. Within this broad scientific field, nonlinear optical (NLO) and liquid crystalline materials are especially interesting. NLO effects allow the manipulation of laser light beams and can be used in electro-optical data processing, and also revolutionary all-optical technologies. Simple organic liquid crystals (LCs) have long proved useful, for example in display devices.
We propose to synthesise two new classes of organotransition metal compounds designed to show very large NLO effects. The first group comprises amphiphilic ruthenium complex salts, which are intended to form Langmuir -Blodgett (LB) or related thin films displaying bulk NLO behaviour. By depositing such films onto optically transparent electrodes, we aim to achieve the first convincing demonstration of reversible switching of optical properties via metal-based redox.
The second group of target compounds are neutral ruthenium complexes that are expected to form LC phases. All new compounds will be fully characterised in-house using standard techniques including NMR and UV-visible spectroscopy and electrochemistry. The project also involves collaborations with leading research groups in Europe and the USA. Molecular optical and electronic properties will be measured in Leuven (Belgium) using hyper-Rayleigh scattering, and using Stark spectroscopy at the California Institute of Technology (USA).
Various advanced calculations including time-dependent density functional methods will also be pursued with experts in Zaragoza (Spain). LB or related thin films will be fabricated in Leuven, and LC behaviour will be investigated locally with specialists in physics. This work is driven primarily by scientific curiosity, but the long-term goal is to create new materials, which may be useful in future optical data processing devices.
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